Basic Premise and Relationship to Canon
Our mission statement: Canon got stupid. Therefore, we will rely mostly on information communicated pre-timeskip (including Kakashi Gaiden) and will take any information relayed post-timeskip at our own will and pleasure; if we like it, we'll keep it, but if not it never happened. Our canon makes more sense than Kishimoto's anyway. Any pre-timeskip information that we don't like we can also ignore at will.
History of Konoha
During the first Great Ninja War, 90 or so years ago, the man who would become the Shodai Hokage led a tough and seasoned band of ninja and their families and followers to the prosperous village of Konoha. He offered Konoha defense in the currently raging war, in return for shelter and supply. Konoha was already home to several ninja families--probably the Uchiha and the Hyuuga--but an alliance was formed, although tensions persisted. Shodai's ninja probably built the great wall that rings Konoha today, and Shodai himself encouraged the growth of the protecting forest. When the war ended, Shodai had enough power to negotiate with the daimyo of Fire Country for Konoha to be recognized as a semi-autonomous ninja village, with Shodai as its acknowledged and acclaimed leader. Uchiha Madara fought with Shodai and left the village at around this time.
(This gives us a basis for the two somewhat divided populations of ninja and civilians, who have intermarried but not totally assimilated in the last 80 years. Also explains for the stand-offishness of the Hyuuga and Uchiha, who were lords of the village 90 years ago and still retain a great deal of power on the village council, along with their own walled compounds and districts. Shodai also had smaller ninja clans in his retinue, like the Inuzuka, Aburame, and InoShikaCho families, along with many clanless ninja.)
Obito died beneath that boulder because seriously, dude, what the heck.
5 years ago, when Kakashi was 14, the war with Earth Country ended and Minato Namikaze was named the Yondaime Hokage. A year or so later, when Minato's wife Kushina, the jinchuriki for the Kyuubi demon, was about to give birth, the village was attacked by Uchiha Madara, who was INCREDIBLY OLD but had probably worked with Orochimaru on life-extending treatments or something.
(That...actually makes a lot of sense--it never was really explained WHY Orochimaru was so bent on immortality--but if he'd met up with Madara at some point and started working with him, and later got the fixation on his own, it could work!)
Madara managed to kill Kushina's guards and extricate the Kyuubi, which immediately set about destroying much of Konoha. Minato fought Madara AND the Kyuubi, and managed to drive Madara off or kill him, depending on whether we want to bring him back later. However, instead of letting Minato being an idiot and seal the Kyuubi in Naruto by way of his own death, thereby letting Kushina AND Minato die and Naruto grow up orphaned and alone, Kushina was a hero and sealed the Kyuubi back into herself before dying from the effects of the extrication and wounds she received from Madara. The Kyuubi died with her, although since it is an immortal spirit of nature it will be reincarnated at some point 10 or 100 or 1000 years down the road.
Kushina died a hero, renowned as such. Minato was left a widower, but hale and hearty and determined to raise Naruto well and guide his village wisely. Under his leadership, the dragging war with Cloud was brought to an end within a year, and an armistice was signed.
Current Set-up: the Hyuuga Affair
However, war hawks in Cloud are displeased with the terms of the treaty, which established the "buffer zone" of border nations between Fire and Lightning countries. At the anniversary celebration of the signing of the treaty, a contingent of visiting Cloud ninja operating under secret instructions from a splinter group in Cloud's leadership council seek to provoke Konoha into war--and, additionally, destabilize Konoha from within--by attacking one of Konoha's founding clans and stealing the secrets of the Byakugan.
A team of ANBU, strolling by after a night at the bar celebrating their first successful mission, just so happen to thwart that plan...
ANBU agents are grouped into flexible 4 or 5 man teams, which may be broken into smaller units depending on the demands of the mission. Usually, a team has two veterans (agents who've served at least 2 years) and two rookies (agents with up to 1 year of experience); each veteran is expected to mentor one of the rookies on the team.
Rookies live in dorms in the ANBU complex for the first year of their service, but can live where they please after that. Only weirdos stick around in the dorms, though. Veterans probably get a housing stipend equivalent to the value of the dorm--which isn't much.
Our current team line-up:
Raidou (taijutsu, veteran)
Genma (ninjutsu, poison, veteran)
Katsuko (ninjutsu, kenjutsu; not a rookie but not yet a veteran considered capable of mentoring. Possibly something happened to her old team, or she just exploded things one too many times and they decided to stick her with steadier leaders like Rai and Gen)
Kakashi (rookie, genius at everything he does: ninjutsu, genjutsu, taijutsu, tracking. Hokage's golden boy. Everyone knows he's being groomed for leadership)
Ryouma (rookie, ninjutsu, taijutsu)
Typically students enter the Academy at 5 and graduate at 10. Kakashi graduated early, at 8 or 9 (but not 5 or 6 because that's STUPID. The Academy teachers held him back as long as they could). He became a chuunin at 10 and a jounin at 13.
Ryouma also graduated "early," but he was 13 or 14; he took the 5-year course in 3 or 4 years, but the gaps in his education show.
The Academy conducts continuing education courses for genin, chuunin, and even jounin. Typically these are seminars and lectures, with ninja required to attend a certain number every year. Ninja may also sign up for special skills courses, with small group or individual tutoring. These classes are taught by experienced older ninja, with occasional guest lecturing from younger specialists--e.g. Genma might be asked to give a guest lecture on poisons in the field, Kurenai on genjutsu, etc.
Konoha has a population of about 20,000 people, more than 2/3 of whom are civilian. There are about 6,500 ninja, active and retired, on the record books. Of the ninja presently in service, roughly 40 percent are genin, 40 percent chuunin, 10 percent special jounin, and 10 percent jounin. Genin and chuunin tend to retire more frequently as they age and have families. Jounin are more likely to be active until they die--which is rather likely to be early. About 2 percent of the ninja corps, or roughly 130, are active ANBU.
The ANBU compound is located on top of the Hokage Mountain (you can see the tops of the buildings in the attached map). There's an HQ building with offices and briefing rooms, along with the Quartermaster's office; there is also a mess hall, a medical clinic for injuries that don't require immediate hospitalization, the T&I building, rookie dorms, and training grounds.
Dorms for rookie ANBUs are minimalist at best; each tiny room has a bed, a chest, and a lamp provided. Bloodstains come gratis. Bathrooms and showers are shared; meals are generally eaten in the mess hall by those whose hunger or poverty outweighs their sense of taste.
ANBU has no separate Intel section as such; village Intel covers all processing of intelligence, although ANBU field agents do acquire information and pass it on in their reports to their superiors. There is no separate Eros section within ANBU, either; seduction is simply one tool ANBU who specialize in intelligence may use in pursuit of their mission goals. Torture and Interrogation (T&I) is a separate, specialized division, only loosely connected with ANBU, which handles all interrogation of enemy combatants for the village.
ANBU holds recruitment events twice a year, in April and September, open only to special jounin and jounin who are 18 or older. The average age of admission is 20. Of the candidates who test and train, only about 10 are selected. ANBU enlist for 4-year stints, although they may be released early for medical or mental health reasons. Some ANBU re-enlist at the end of their service, while others return to normal jounin duties.
Rookies are assigned to an ANBU veteran, who may or may not be on their first team, for mentoring. The mentor relationship may be very loose and is mostly intended as a way to keep an extra eye on each rookie in his first months in the black and bone.
Teams are flexible in composition and in utilization; although ANBU commanders generally try to avoid disrupting good working partnerships, they may reorganize teams for better selections of skillsets, personality issues, and mission needs, as well as reassigning shinobi due to medical leaves or permanent attrition. Ninja may expect to serve on many different teams and with many different people during their stint in ANBU, although good partnerships or trios may move together, and some celebrated teams endure unchanged for two years or more. There are generally 20 teams of 5 at any given time, with another 30 agents who operate independently or as floaters, or who are unassigned due to long-term injury.
ANBU receive a steady stipend and are considered on call at all times. They also receive mission pay, but they are not at liberty to volunteer for missions, taking only those missions assigned to them by the hokage. They receive medical care for free, and either housing in the ANBU dorms or a housing allowance. All mission expenses, such as food, transport, and housing are covered within reason.
Soldier pills are generally restricted and not readily available to ninja below jounin rank; team leaders or medics may carry soldier pills which they may dole out to their team members at need. ANBU members are generally considered independent and responsible enough to supervise their own use.
Chakra expenditure on a large scale may cause pain and damage beyond mere chakra drain, as chakra coils are overloaded or seared. Similarly, a jutsu held in reserve for a time (as when a ninja needs to accumulate and focus chakra) or maintained for a time (as with the Sharingan and Byakugan) may cause coil strain and pain or swelling at the site of focus.
The 3rd Ninja War ended in early March, when Kakashi was 13--at least, Earth Contry, Wind, and Grass agreed to peace treaties with Fire Country, while Lightning Country maintained an unsteady detente for the next two years before finally signing the accords. However, after the initial treaty was forged, Sandaime announced his intention to retire. He nominated Namikaze Minato, the beloved war hero, as his successor. The nomination was announced at the beginning of April, with the investiture planned for the end of the year.
Orochimaru, Sandaime’s genius student, argued unsuccessfully against the nomination--for years he had expected to be the Yondaime Hokage. To see his teammate’s student receive the accolades was a vicious blow. Already deeply involved in secret research on power and immortality, Orochimaru escalated his work. Instead of merely abducting civilian derelicts and street children, washed-up shinobi and retirees who wouldn’t be missed, he kidnapped a young kunoichi off the street.
Ueno Katsuko was not quite fourteen, frightened, and fighting for her life--but she was no match for the most powerful of the Sannin. Orochimaru imprisoned her in the underground lab where so many had already died, and began a series of experiments designed to replicate the massive chakra potential of the jinchuriki, like Uzumaki Kushina, Minato’s new bride. He succeeded in cracking the Eighth Heavenly Gate, the Gate of Death, and routing its incredible and fatal power through a seal that prolonged Katsuko’s life while increasing her chakra to almost uncontrollable levels. The results were unstable, but successful--after many attempts, Orochimaru had created a shinobi who didn’t need to host a tailed beast in order to summon unimaginable power.
Meanwhile, Ueno Kasa, Katsuko’s father and the ambassador to Wind Country, was raising hell over his daughter’s disappearance. Where the gradual disappearances of hundreds of children, civilians, and street-trash had not caught Konoha’s ruling council’s attention, the talented daughter of an influential diplomat did. There were no leads, but pressure to find an answer grew enough that Orochimaru decided to prepare for the possibility that he might be tracked down.
He didn’t kill Katsuko: she was recovering slowly from the massive series of operations, and the results were promising. Instead, he brought his three new genin students down into the labs--and inflicted his newly developed curse seal upon them. The curse seal was a prototype, meant to replicate some of the effects of Katsuko’s chakra-surge seal without the invasive surgery. Unfortunately, it was even more unstable than Katsuko’s seal. Two of the genin died. He left the third for dead.
But Mitarashi Anko was stronger than he’d realized. She fought past the horrific pain and fever of the cursed seal, fought to her feet--and found herself in the underground lab, with bodies on the wall and a girl on the table, watching her.
Anko couldn’t help Katsuko. She could barely stagger out of the lab and into the street, where a passing shinobi caught her in concern. Barely clinging to consciousness, she pled with him to take her to the Hokage immediately.
Shiranui Genma was not quite seventeen, not quite a tokubetsu jounin, and not quite as cool as he wanted everyone to think--but he kept his calm when the delirious little girl babbled about bodies in the walls, and he carried her to the Hokage’s office at a run. He waited nervously outside the door while the Hokage questioned her--and was thrust unceremoniously aside, with a snapped command never to repeat anything he’d heard that night, when one ANBU ran out carrying Anko to the hospital and two others followed the Sandaime to confront his former student.
Orochimaru didn’t bother to deny anything--the bodies in the walls, and the living girl on the table, were evidence enough of his crimes.
And the Sandaime let him go.
Katsuko was taken to a hospital. The bodies were decently and discreetly buried. Sandaime resigned early and in private disgrace, leaving Minato to clean up the mess--including the unstable and dangerous matter of Katsuko’s and Anko’s seals. Katsuko’s father was the one to explain to her that the Sandaime had let her torturer escape.
The ANBU never found Orochimaru--or never came back alive, if they had. Jiraiya left the village shortly thereafter, with the stated intention of finishing what his teacher hadn’t. Tsunade, who’d returned infrequently from her wanderings, came back for the classified funerals of Orochimaru’s victims and never returned again. The affair was largely hushed up, but Minato’s investiture still took place under a dark shroud.
Sandaime died four months later, facing the Fox--redemption of a sort, though too late, and not enough. Those who know about Orochimaru’s betrayal suspected him of involvement in Kushina’s abduction and the Fox’s attack, but there’s been no word of him in the last five years. Katsuko joined ANBU. Anko made chuunin, with Minato’s support. Tenzou--discovered late, and hidden away--is talking about joining ANBU someday. Konoha is just beginning to relax.